Oh, Veronica Mars, how far you have fallen. You went from a sarcastic, witty teen detective to a flat, broken slapstick humorist. “When in Rome” just happens to be your latest sad attempt at moving beyond the small screen.
A truly unfortunate follow-up to Kristen Bell’s last flop, “Couples Retreat,” this weak romantic comedy begins when a workaholic New Yorker (Bell) travels to Rome for her younger sister’s wedding. There, she drunkenly revels in her unlucky love life by plucking coins out of the Fontana d’Amore. Little does she know, however, that these coins have made a suitor for each token fall irrevocably in love with her.
Now, I’m as open to a cheesy rom-com as the next person, but this movie was just ridiculous. The characters were absurd to the point of being clownish, and not even likeable actors like Bell and Josh Duhamel could bring things back from the dead. Sorry, but even with the prettiest people around, you can’t fix a bad script.
Also, when one cheesy comedy relies on another for jokes, you know you’re in a losing battle. Using Jon Heder’s “Napoleon Dynamite” fame to procure laughs is a stretch; bringing Efren Ramirez (a.k.a. “Pedro”) in as another silent stand-in to rub it in is just insulting.
Perhaps the only legitimately humorous comments were uttered by the friend-of-main-character Puck (Bobby Moynihan of “Saturday Night Live” fame). His quick quips were natural and entertaining, completely opposite of the forced, beat-you-with-a-stick jokes throughout the rest of the movie.
One successful — although probably not completely intentional — aspect of the film was how each of Bell’s obnoxious suitors (Heder, Will Arnett, Dax Shepard and Danny DeVito) made the audience feel just as sickened by them as she was. Sadly, it doesn’t make the movie any better.
And while Duhamel’s real-life drama with Fergie is probably the only reason anyone went to see this movie (well, that and old fans of “Veronica Mars” clinging to the hope that the show’s not actually dead… no, I wouldn’t know anything about that…), his character certainly isn’t the charming eye candy you’d hoped for. Rather, he plays an unkempt sports writer who has more luck walking into walls than picking up chicks.
While I’m not quite sure I expected much better, “When in Rome” falls flat and really makes you reconsider the beauty of one of the greatest cities in the world.